Saturday, June 26, 2010

Handmade children's products: Illegal.

Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (or the CPSIA) is a piece of legislation that was originally intended to make large, multinational corporations liable for the safety of the toys they produce. It created a list of dangerous ingredients that were not to be allowed in children's products and held the manufacturer responsible by making them test the products. Sounds great, right? Honestly, as it was intended, it is.

Unfortunately it is extremely difficult to make mandates on large businesses that small businesses are not forced to follow as well. Where there is a loop hole, large business will find and exploit them. So, while huge corporations will not have an issue paying the thousands of dollars it takes to test a product, small-batch producers will be left in the dust. The legislation is, effectively putting small producers out of business.

I have been making simple children's toys out of recycled plastic felt for a little while now. I've mostly sold them to a friend of mine who is a doula and runs childbirth classes. I've been intending to start an Etsy shop, but wanted to wait until this legislation is figured out. Although all of the parts used in the production of my felties, I would be forced to pay thousands of dollars to test each product. Change the shape of one, or the color of another, pay another few thousand dollars to retest everything. Yup, that's how comprehensive this legislation mandates the testing to be. Keep in mind that every product sold at a store like JoAnn Fabrics or Michaels has already been tested, but because I have repackaged that product, I am forced to retest everything individually and as a finished product.

While this comprehensive testing is great for customers of companies that put out cheap plastic toys that are made using tons of chemicals and small parts, this is murder for anyone that buys products from retailers who make their products by hand in small batches. This doesn't only effect the seller, this effects the people who want to be able to buy locally produced or hand made products. This applies to anything that any child under 12 might use, including toys, clothes, slings, etc. Even thrift stores would be forced to comply with this legislation, which they have no means of doing! This means that the market will only contain products made by these large corporations.

This legislation was already passed in 2008. Currently most small businesses that create products for children are choosing to break the law in order to keep their livelihood and keep doing what they love. They are working to contact legislators and have some exemptions added to the legislation that will allow them to keep creating their amazing products.

HERE is's story on The Handmade Toy Alliance, an organization that is working to support small handcrafting businesses

Please, keep supporting small businesses, keep buying from individuals, we need it now more than ever.
Check out and contact your legislators!

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